It’s Sixty Miles to Racine*

When they moved in, twenty years ago,
an acquaintance who lived at the top
of the dune in a big house, drove by

in his late-model luxury car, stopped,
rolled down the passenger side win-
dow and called to the new resident

in his driveway, “So you are the new
riffraff in the valley,” and drove off
laughing at his cleverness. Ha, ha,

ha, ha, the new person in the neigh-
borhood thought to himself. There’s
always some message disguised in

humor — something one can get away
with — in this case, a word about
status. Vance Packard would certainly

agree. The man and his wife then walked
up the dune to the stairway down to
the beach. They stood at the top and

looked out. The man said, “It’s sixty
miles straight across to Racine. I knew
a guy who once said to his wife, ‘Honey,

I’m going out for breakfast,’ and he
took his fifteen-foot fishing boat to
Racine and had breakfast.” They walked

back down the dune to their new home
and he said, “I like living below the
dune in a cottage. I like seeing the

Big Lake and not being able to see
Racine. I like the proportions. I think
this will help keep things in perspective.

* It’s the birthday of poet Heather McHugh, born in San Diego, California (1948). She said: “I have always lived on waterfronts. If you live on the edge of an enormous mountain or an enormous body of water, it’s harder to think of yourself as being so important. That seems useful to me, spiritually.”  — from the Writer’s Almanac, 8/20/2019

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